She heard the sound of her phone ring for the umpteenth time. It was six thirty in the morning and she was getting ready for work. She had a deadline to review three financial statements and accounts towards the Annual General Meetings of three different public companies; their biggest clients. She had been closing a little later than usual to meet up. She never wanted to see the boss’ angry side even if the boss was her flesh and blood. She hurried out of the bathroom in her bathrobe and dried her hands quickly before sliding the screen of the phone to answer the call.
“Torera I need your help like asap.”
It was Enitan.
“Help? What for? I’m hurrying to get to the office.” Torera said.
“I know. Something came up. I am getting ready to go to the airport. I just got a call from my management team asking me to be in Abuja for 10a.m. I might be getting an endorsement deal for an Energy drink company that is new in the country.” Enitan said.
“Oh my God that is so amazing Enitan!”
“Thanks dear and that’s why I have to be there this morning.”
“Okay—how do I come in? You know I can’t come with you to Abuja. I have an extremely busy week.” Torera said.
“No. Not that.”
“So what is it?”
Enitan sighed, trying to pick her words.
“Um—Bami is still in Hong Kong. He should be back next week—”
“I’m listening.” Torera said. She walked over to her dresser and started to comb her hair with her free hand.
“Okay. I don’t have anyone to watch Quentin.”
“You’re joking right.” She said.
“No.” Enitan said.
“Hmm…I love Quentin you know he is my bae but I am so occupied this week. I have a lot of work to do and I have close deadlines to meet. Dad is on my neck already and—”
“It’s okay. I understand.” Enitan said. Her tone suddenly became flat in a rather disappointed manner. She sighed. She could have done the puppy dog face thing but they were over the phone.
“Why don’t you drop him with your parents?” Torera said. Bami’s family did not live in the country.
“They are not in town. I have thought of that.”
“Your help nko?”
“I don’t really trust non-family with my child.” Enitan said. “I never leave her alone with Quentin for too long. That’s why I called you because you are the most trusted person I—”
Torera shook her head. She knew what her cousin was getting at.
“Phew! Enitan you know I have such a busy week. I live alone. Why don’t you drop him off at daddy’s place? He can play with the baby and Nike will watch him.”
“Torera no disrespect but I don’t really know your step mother that well. Never mind I’ll just cancel my flight and forfeit the endorsement even if it is worth millions. I would have taken him to the airport but I need full concentration and like I said, I don’t like to drop my kid with just anybody. It’s well sha.”
Torera bit her lower lip.
“Okay. How long are you in Abuja for?”
“I’m coming back tomorrow morning. There’s the meetings, the legal stuff, the mini-training class, photo sessions, and a wrap up dinner.”
Torera sighed. She was trying to clasp the hook of her bra with one hand.
“Hmm so he will sleep over. Gosh. Okay. It’s fine. But don’t blame me if I feed your son with nothing but noodles. I don’t have baby stuff here.”
“I have everything packed already. And my help will be at your house. My driver will bring them over.”
“Oh okay. That’s fine. What time?”
“In about an hour.”
Torera shook her head.
“I am supposed to be at work. Eni you know I don’t have a flexible job like yours.”
“Please. When you have your kids I’ll do the same for you.”
“Mschew. Let me think.”
Enitan waited for three seconds.
“Just call in sick and tell them you will work from home.” Enitan said.
“I don’t work like that. I take my job very seriously. I head the team. It would be irresponsible of me on a Monday morning knowing we have deadlines and—”
“Quentin is crying.” Enitan said. Torera heard the toddler’s voice. She couldn’t make out what he was saying. “I think he is saying he wants to see aunt Torera.”
“Enitan you are a foolish girl.” She laughed.
Enitan laughed too.
Torera shook her head again. She had to help her cousin out. Otunba would be angry but she would try to work from home and stay glued to her computer. Great thing that Enitan’s help would also be around.
“Thank you so much. You are a life saver.” Enitan said.
“Na so.” Torera replied.
“One more thing.”
“Huh? What is it again?”
“Er—he called that he had to travel for work.”
“How is that my business?”
“Please now. Listen. He needs me to watch his kids.”
“Okay watch them na.” She laughed.
“I will when I’m back. Usually he leaves them with his sister but she is on her honeymoon. Onome’s parents live in Warri. He can’t take them there. That’s his late wife.”
“When is he coming back?”
“He’s a marine engineer. Two weeks on two weeks off thing. On shore off shore engineer.”
“So how does he do it? Every two weeks he leaves his kids with you?”
“I said he leaves them with his sister but she just got married.”
“Ehn so what will happen henceforth?”
“Maybe you should ask him.” Enitan said.
Torera read between the lines.
“Please just watch them for today. But I bet you will fall in love with them. They are adorable.”
“Does he know a total stranger is watching his children?” Torera asked.
“I already told him that everything would be fine. He is at work now so I can’t even speak to him.”
In the next couple of hours, Torera opened her door and her living room was suddenly filled with three toddlers running around and jumping and speaking gibberish. The four year old boy was a little more coherent though. Enitan’s help genuflected and greeted Torera. She was holding three Disney cartoon character bags.
“How are you?” Torera said.
“I’m fine aunty.” The help said.
“Um—so have they eaten yet?”
The help nodded.
“Okay. Err—so please just stay here with them till they fall asleep or something.”
The help laughed.
“Aunty they no dey sleep like that o. Especially Quentin.” She pronounced Quentin like it was the name of a drug.
“Okay. Just put on the television and let them watch cartoons. I’ll be inside. I have a lot of work to do.” She said.
The help nodded.
The little girl walked over to Torera and looked up at her, as though she was fascinated by something. Torera looked at her too. She had big round eyes and a full pink pout. She had quite a lot of hair for a child her age. It was woven in a braid attempt. Hurriedly done obviously by an Amateur.
“Who made her hair?” Torera laughed.
The help smiled.
“Her daddy. But I will do it again. His driver just drop them fast at our house yesterday night.” The help said.
By the time Torera opened her eyes, it was Three o’ clock. She hated working from home. She always slept off. She had a study but somehow, it was in her subconscious that she was home and could steal a nap. For the most part of the morning she had been working and sending emails to her staff. She decided to take a snack after about four hours of working. She walked to the kitchen and grabbed a bag of chips and a bottle of orange juice. She heard the children’s noises in the living room. She walked over and saw them dancing to a sing along on the TV. Quentin was wobbling but jumping. The older boy was doing same. He was obviously an expert. The little girl was in a world of her own. She was playing with her dolls and talking to them. The help had slept off.
“Hey sweetie.” Torera walked towards the little girl and patted her on the head.
“See dam!” She said. Torera didn’t quite understand. She worked with children on weekends but not toddlers.
“What did you say love?” Torera said.
“See dam!! Nee!” Then she patted the space beside her with her tiny hands and pulled the hem of Torera’s maxi dress.
“Oh you want me to sit down.” Torera smiled. She folded her dress and took a seat beside her. Her name was Stacey. The boy was Tobi.
“Daddy boo me clich. Dxjnnnvj&&$$%w%Tgngi”
Torera nodded. She did not understand but she nodded, enjoying this one sided conversation with Stacey.
“Baby me daddy. See!” Stacey said.
“What? These are your babies?” Torera said.
Stacey nodded repeatedly then she giggled and chuckled. Torera smiled.
“Then you are the mummy.” Torera said.
“Wat mummy?” Stacey said.
Sudden emotion took over her heart as she looked at Stacey who was engrossed in combing the hair of her dolls. The girl needed a proper hair-do herself. She had no mother. All she had was a father. Torera hurried into her room then came back with combs and oil, and then she started to undo the zig- zag thing on the child’s head. She wondered about Fola. She wondered how he juggled taking care of his children, maintaining his job and having a life. Did he have a girlfriend? Had he dated anyone since his wife died?
Fola smiled and fiddled with his car keys as he tried to find an answer to Torera’s question.
“Yes I have.” He said.
Torera nodded. She didn’t know why she felt a little pang of jealousy there. But she did not even know the man existed then. Why was she jealous that he had dated again after Onome died?
“So…what happened?” Torera asked.
They were sitting over lunch at a restaurant. This was their third time hanging out. The first time was when he showed up at her door to thank her for taking care of his kids while he was away at Port Harcourt. He had come with flowers and pair of sun glasses. He said Enitan told him that she had an obsession for sun glasses. The second time was at Tobi’s graduation from kindergarten. Torera did not know why she went for that event though. It seemed too fast be to be attending his kids’ events. This was the third.
To Torera, she didn’t exactly want to term it as dating him. She made it clear to him that she was not ready for a relationship. Fola was a little surprised but he agreed with her and asked to just be her friend. He needed her companionship and she was excellent with his children. They loved her. And on a few other Saturdays, he had been dropping them over at her place and also spending some time with her.
Fola missed Onome. Onome was the love of his life. He had known Onome since he was fifteen. She completed him. She was the only woman he had eyes for. No one else. He still blamed himself for her death. Perhaps if he had been more stern and affirmative as the man of the house that she went ahead with the Caesarian procedure, she would have survived. Faith had made him lose his wife and a child. Faith had made him a young widower. That was not the plan! The plan was that he and Onome would raise their family together. They would hold the babies together through the night and they would be there to watch all the first steps, hear the first words, take the kids to school, go on family vacations, visit family, grow old together, be good parents-in-law to their kids’ spouses together…that was the plan. Until faith messed it all up.
Bami always said Man proposes and God disposes. But why would God dispose? Was He not a God of love? Why did he let his wife die at the age of twenty nine! He was planning to throw her a big thirtieth birthday party in Ghana. He was going to buy her a brand new car for being the best wife on earth.
Yes he had dated again. That was after the initial one year of hibernating and being depressed. He became a recluse and his mother and sister had to help out with the baby and Tobi. After a while, it was obvious he needed a woman…not necessarily for him but to be a mother to his babies. He did not want to be romantically involved with any of them. It felt like he was cheating on Onome, even if she was
dead not around anymore. He did not mind being celibate for the rest of his life. Onome was the only woman he had ever been with in his entire life. That was the plan. Until faith messed it up. The women that came around liked him. He knew he was the right package. Handsome, rich, and polished. The moment they found out about his kids, they found a reason or the other to break up with him. None wanted to be a mother to a dead woman’s children. He was paranoid too, especially since he had walked in on one of his exes spanking Tobi for littering the floor with cookie crumbs. He loved his children above anything else and he needed a woman who would love them like a mother.
Torera was beautiful. Yes, he was attracted to her in a different kind of way. Somewhat similar to what he felt for Onome. He loved her personality. She was a focused woman who knew what she wanted. Above all, she loved his children. Stacey took an instant liking to her and he could see the invisible connection of love between them. She was not perfect. She was not as perfect as his Onome. But she was a good woman. She said she was not ready for a relationship. He was surprised. Most women her age were already becoming paranoid for marriage. Enitan had told him a little about her. She had been in a few relationships before and got her heart broken many a time. He could tell that she liked him. She always avoided his eyes and he knew it. Onome had acted like that too at the beginning. Torera flinched when he talked about other women and he knew it was jealousy. It made him a little hopeful.
“They just could not see themselves getting married to a widower with two children.” He said. He took his glass of cranberry juice and sipped.
She sighed. He knew she was afraid too. Perhaps confused. No woman logically wanted to start a new life with encumbrances.
“I’m sorry about that.” She said. She was picking at her food. She bit her lower lip. He noticed she always did that when she was thinking or confused.
“It’s okay.” He said.
“Are you good? How are you? I know you miss your wife a lot.”
He nodded, and then looked into her eyes. She looked at her plate, still picking at her food.
She did not understand what was going on. She was not ready for a relationship. She did not want to jump. She wanted to get it right this time. But this was too much baggage for her. She loved the children. It was not about the children. It was about him. She was not sure if he was over his wife.
“Fola!” Someone called. Fola turned around immediately and a quick laughter took over him. he stood up and hugged the man who had called him.
“Ay pumping!” Fola laughed.
Torera looked up. Her heart started to race a million miles. It was Ayo. Ayotunde Williams-Adeoti. Her ex-boyfriend. In a few seconds they were joined by his beautiful wife, Muna. Muna was glowing. Torera was almost having a panic attack. Why was this happening again?! Not again!
“Torera—” Ayo said. Fola frowned a little. Muna smiled a little.
“You know Torera? Wow small world.” Fola said.
Fola and Ayo met during NYSC in Abuja. They were pretty close and Ayo and Muna had even attended his wedding but somehow they lost contact and drifted apart.
“Yes, sure. She’s err—an old friend.” Ayo smiled, looking at Torera.
“Um—yea.” Torera said. All she wanted to do in that moment was to grab her purse and flee.
“Hi, Torera. Long time no see.” Muna said.
Torera nodded, waving a little. She felt the sarcasm in her voice.
“So, how is your wife Onome and how is your son? It’s been such a long time.” Muna said, emphasizing the word wife and throwing Torera a look that spoke a million paragraphs.
Torera shook her head. Ayo tried to caution Muna.
“She’s um—.” Fola stuttered.
“I think I still have her phone number.” She continued, looking at Torera and bringing out her phone.
Fola forced a smile.
“We—um—lost her. She died two years ago.” He finally said.
There was silence for a little while. Muna felt highly embarrassed.
“Oh my God! I am so sorry! When did this happen?!” Ayo said.
“I’m sorry.” Muna whispered.
“It’s okay. I mean, it happens.” Fola said. He placed a hand on Ayo’s shoulder. “We have a lot of catching up to do. And you need to tell me a lot about the amazing Miss Torera here.” He said.
Torera felt the blood rush in her veins. She gulped her glass of water and grabbed her purse.
“I need to use the rest room please.” She said and excused herself from their midst.
It was two days since that entire thing happened at the restaurant. She didn’t know how to explain the emotion that overcame her. Was something fundamentally wrong with her life? Why did she have such bad luck in finding men? Fola was barely even in her life before Ayo and Muna showed up. She was certain that Ayo would divulge her past to Fola. If Ayo did not, then Muna would. And she didn’t blame the woman. She had once tried to take her husband and break her home. Karma! Or maybe it was God’s revenge. She had pleaded and asked Him for forgiveness already. What more did He want? Her blood?
Fola had been calling her phone but she had been ignoring his calls. She didn’t know what to say when she saw him. She just didn’t know how to deal with the situation. She had called Enitan and told her everything that happened and Enitan had told her to take it easy. She would try to speak with Fola or get Bami to. Torera didn’t want that. She was not even dating him exactly. She didn’t owe him that (she thought). She had told Enitan not to bother. She would be fine. All she needed was some time to get over the entire situation.
It was Saturday morning. She was still in bed. No morning run for her. She did run occasionally but that Saturday did not seem like it. It was Enitan’s call that woke her up.
“Hey.” Torera answered, yawning.
“Sleepy head. I’m at your door.” Enitan said.
“Are you really asking me why I am at your door?”
Torera hissed, stretched and then got out of bed. She searched for her slippers and grabbed her dressing gown. She was wearing only a tank top with no bottoms. She dragged her feet, scratched her eyes, stretched some more, and then opened the door.
“What’s up? Is everything okay?” Torera said.
Enitan smiled and walked in.
“Um—you have bad breath. I think you should brush your teeth and wear some pants.”
“Fola is in the elevator. He’s on his way up.”
“What?!” Torera yelled. Her hair was frizzy and flying all over the place like serial antennas. She was not wearing a bra and her dressing gown was very short.
“Why did you not tell me? I have been avoiding his calls. I don’t want to see him. Enitan I don’t like this.”
“You’re wasting time.” Enitan said and walked into the kitchen.
Torera mumbled some angry words and headed into her bedroom. In a few minutes she was out with a baseball cap, a t shirt and loose pants and she had a little lip gloss on. Fola was in her living room fiddling with his car keys as usual. Torera searched around for Enitan.
“Hi.” She said, trying not to look at him. She missed him. He was wearing a body hugging t shirt that expatiated how muscular he really was.
He looked at her and hurried over to her, and then he caught himself and stopped.
“I’ve been worried about you. You have been ignoring my calls. You said you wanted to use the rest room and you just left!” He said.
“Where’s Enitan?” She said.
Fola shook his head.
“So are you going to tell me what the problem is?” Fola said.
“It’s nothing.” She said. She walked over to the TV and switched it off. She had dozed off on the couch last night and somehow sleep walked to her bedroom in the middle of the night.
“Torera we are both adults here. Please.”
“You want to hear it from me? Okay yes Ayo is my ex boyfriend. And yes we had a thing going but he left me and went back to his wife. He told me they were having problems and he loved me because he met me first. Yes. That’s it. Happy now? What else did Muna and Ayo tell you?” She yelled.
Fola stared at her eyes and mouth wide open. Torera sighed and looked at him. She had tears forming in her eyes.
“Please just go. I told you I was not ready for a relationship. I can’t deal with any more drama.” She sobbed, wiping her face.
Fola sighed. He walked over to her and stooped before her. She was sitting on the couch. He held her hands in his and looked at her. She looked away.
“For the record, I did not discuss anything about you with Ayo and his wife.” He said softly.
“Calm down, sweetie. I am not like the other men. I am not them. I—I really like you a lot.” He said.
The surprise over took both of them.
Torera cleared her throat.
“You didn’t?” She said.
He shook his head.
“I don’t care what happened between you guys.” He said.
She sighed, wiping her tears. He brushed his fingers over her face and the tears trickled down his hands. Then he pulled her closer and hugged her. For a few minutes, they said nothing.
“You worry too much, Nike!” Otunba said. The baby was on his chest, sleeping soundly.
Nike was pacing to and fro their bedroom, extremely restless.
“How won’t I worry? She promised to stay away from him! She relocated and everything was fine. And we told Lade that she lost the pregnancy so he could concentrate. Now he’s doing well at George Washington and she decided she wants to live in Maryland?!” Nike yelled.
“You have to keep your voice down. The baby is asleep.” Otunba said.
Nike had run into a mutual friend of her and Toju’s who told her that Toju was in touch with her and that she was based in Maryland.
“They are still in different cities.”
“DMV is almost one city! What’s the distance from Maryland to DC?” Nike retorted.
Lade had been in George Washington University for about a year now with a major in Computer Engineering. Nike was reluctant to let him live on his own but Otunba had insisted. He needed to grow up and be a man and live on his own. Nike called him every single day and had visited him twice in six months.
“Can we shift our travel date backward? I can’t wait till next two weeks.” Nike said.
Lade’s birthday was in two weeks and the family had decided to have a family vacation in the USA to spend time off work and bond again. Torera would be joining them too.
“Nike will you calm down.” He said.
The baby woke up and started to cry.
“Sho ri nkan to shey nisin?” (See what you have done) Otunba said. He handed the baby to Nike. The kid looked so much like Otunba. He was proud. That was his first son. He didn’t mind that people thought he was the grandfather whenever they were in public places. He loved the boy so much he named him Adenekan II. Nike had insisted on Lekan. To her, this baby was comfort from God for losing her other son. So they agreed that the baby would be Adenekan Olalekan Joel Tafa.
Two weeks came quickly even though to Nike, it seemed like two months. Torera came by the house the night before to help them pack and get everything ready. They would be spending three weeks in Virginia in Otunba’s five bedroom property. For her, it was also time to clear her head and stay away from her realities. She just wanted to let loose and have fun with her own family.
“Is everything sorted? The taxi guy picking us up at Washington Dulles and the car rental company” Nike asked Torera. She was supposed to follow up with Otunba’s Personal assistant to make sure that their travel plans were sorted.
“Yes mother!” Torera laughed. Nike laughed too. It was a little weird that Torera called her mother.
“Happy birthday!” Everyone shouted in unison as Lade walked into the 1789 restaurant and the waiter directed him to the table where everyone that mattered was seated. He wasn’t alone. He had come with a girl. She was slender, tall and had curly hair. She was about the same age as him.
Lade laughed and held his stomach. Otunba only said he would be in town for a few days and he wanted to celebrate his birthday with him. His expression was priceless seeing his entire family. His mother, his little baby brother, Torera!
“Oh my God are you guys kidding me!” Lade laughed.
Nike stood up and hugged her son. Everyone joined and hugged him.
“Happy birthday darling.” Nike said.
Lade hugged her and kissed her on the cheek.
“I love you so much.” She smiled.
“I love you too mom.” He said.
They sat and Lade introduced his friend.
“This is Talia guys. She’s my girlfriend.” He said.
Nike sighed. The boy was just eighteen. But she was grateful that this time he had found a girl his own age.
“Nice to meet you Talia.” Otunba said followed by other versions of being pleased by the others.
Talia smiled and thanked them. She had an American accent. She was not Nigerian.
“So does Talia also go to George Washington Uni?” Nike said.
“Yeah I do. It’s a really nice place.” She said, sipping from her glass of lemonade.
“What’s your major?” Torera asked.
“International Affairs.” She responded.
“That’s good.” Otunba said.
Lade excused himself to answer a call. At the same time, Torera excused herself to do same. She told them that she had invited someone to the dinner. In a split second, she walked in with her. Tolu Reynolds. Nee Tafa. Her elder sister.
Otunba froze on his seat as he saw his daughter, his first born. They had not spoken in years. She had not even invited him for her wedding. Torera knew he missed her a lot but Tolu was extremely stubborn. She blamed their father for hurting their mother and for the entire divorce.
Tolu smiled. She tucked her weave behind her ear and walked over to Otunba. She went on her knees and placed her hand on his shoulders.
“Get up. Stand up.” Otunba said. His voice quivered. Torera looked at the both of them. She had been in contact with Tolu and she had informed her that they were all coming for the family vacation. She convinced her to let go of the past and forgive their father. It took the intervention of Enitan’s parents and even Tolu’s husband to get her to finally agree. Torera knew that Tolu also missed home but was too proud to admit it.
“I’m sorry, dad.” She said.
Otunba sighed. He longed for this day. He looked over at Nike who was smiling and encouraging him to embrace his daughter.
“I’m sorry too, Toluwalase. I am so sorry.” He said and hugged her. Tolu kissed his head and told him how sorry she was for being too proud to call him. She congratulated him and Nike on the wedding and the new baby and she told them about her family too. She was married to a white doctor and had two sons. Otunba insisted on meeting them.
Just as Tolu was settling in to have dinner with them, Lade stood up again to answer a call. Nike wondered why he was fidgeting. In a few seconds, Toju walked in and joined them at the table. Nike saw her immediately and spewed out her drink.
“What is this?!” Nike yelled at the top of her lungs. A few people started to turn, most of them white. They were already sneering when they saw a bunch of black folk. Otunba tried to calm her down. Everyone was obviously surprised except Tolu who wasn’t sure what was going on.
“Why is she here? How did she find you? Toju what do you want?!” Nike yelled. She stood up in anger. “Please leave. You are not welcome here. You are not family!”
“Mom you gotta calm down, please.” Lade said
Toju was wearing a navy blue gown and kitten heels. She really did look sorry. She had been apologizing for the last one year and she was still sorry for everything that had happened. She had come in with a baby stroller. Nike noticed it but refused to look in it. She did not want to see the baby. She did not want to see her grandchild. Had Toju told Lade that she really did not suffer a miscarriage and lose the baby? Why had Lade not said anything?
“Please guys…just let her be, okay. It’s not what you think.” Lade said.
Otunba calmed his wife down and pleaded with her to take a seat. She finally did. He then asked Toju to sit too.
“What is she doing here? Let her say what she has to say and leave!” Nike said.
Talia held Lade’s hand under the table to give him some encouragement. Torera was trying to give a quick explanation to Tolu.
“Lade told me that Otunba would be around and I wanted to see him and explain things to him. I wanted him to apologize again to you, Nike.” Toju said.
“You have apologized enough. I am not interested in forgiving you.” Nike said.
“Listen to her, mom.” Lade said.
“I— I am married now.” Toju said.
Nike tried to hide her surprise. She looked away.
“I hope he is your age range.” She snorted.
“Mom no disrespect but Otunba also did some cradle snatching here.” Lade said.
“Oh shut up.” Nike said. Torera laughed silently.
“He is a minister in a church here.” Toju said.
Nike nodded, laughing and fuming.
“We have a daughter. She’s about two months old.” Toju continued.
“Two months?” Nike turned to look at her. Then for the first time she looked in the stroller. The little girl was sound asleep. Adenekan II was also asleep in Torera’s arms.
“What—I don’t understand…” Otunba said.
Toju smiled. She looked at Lade.
“I lost the other pregnancy.” She said.
Nike looked at her.
“Toju, I know that’s what we agreed to tell Lade but seriously…” Otunba said.
“I did really have a miscarriage. Shortly before I traveled. I wanted to tell you but I had caused enough heartache and I just wanted a clean break. I met my husband when I moved here. I ran into Lade at Walmart some weeks ago and I told him everything over lunch.” She said.
Lade nodded in the affirmative.
There was silence everywhere.
Torera made a little noise with the clash of her cutlery against the china. Then the waiter sprung up at their table with a huge white birthday cake with fireworks candles and screamed
“Happy Eighteenth birthday, Lad!” The name on the cake was wrongly spelt. Torera had been responsible for booking the cake.
Talk about wrong timing!
The family vacation was over and everyone returned home with mixed emotions. Even Baby Adenekan II now seemed a little quieter than before. Nike hardly spoke. Otunba knew she was fighting a conscience battle. Toju was her best friend and she did love her a lot but she was finding it hard to blot it out of her head that she had slept with Lade sometime in the recent past. Torera decided to spend the weekend with them before she returned to her flat. For her, the trip was very much needed, especially seeing Tolu and her father reconcile again.
That morning, she heard her father walk into her room. He knocked and then came in and sat beside her on the bed. He was holding a brown paper bag.
“Good morning Princess.” He said, smiling. The white mustache and beard paved way for that ever alluring smile.
“Hey daddy.” She smiled.
“Try to speak Yoruba a few times.” He said.
“Motigbo.” She laughed.
“So, today is your mother’s remembrance and I wanted you to have something. I should have given this to your older sister but—I decided it is you who deserves it.” He said.
Torera sat up straight.
“Mom? What’s it?” She asked.
He handed her the brown paper bag. The bag was torn and almost mutilated and Torera wondered why her father did not take the time to properly package it. She looked at him with raised brows. He smiled and told her to go ahead. She opened it and brought out a box. The box was scratched and bent. It did not look attractive at all. She knew it must be something that was worth a lot but she wondered why the package looked so uninviting.
She opened the lid of the box and in it were the most expensive diamond bracelet, necklace and studs she had ever seen in her entire luxurious life. She opened her mouth wide and gasped.
“Mom owned these?” She asked.
Otunba smiled, shaking his head.
“I traveled for work a lot of times. I was working very hard as a young man. And of a truth I was hardly home and she got frustrated. She started listening to gossip from her friends. She accused me of dating my boss at the time. On one of these trips I bought her these. I had been saving a lot for it. It is very costly. I came home and your mother had packed her things and left with you and your sister.” He said.
“Oh no.” Torera said.
“I don’t blame her. I tried to explain but she kept her distance and wouldn’t listen to me. She told me to go and marry my boss.” He laughed. “I would have given this to Nike but I decided to get her own jewelry set for her. This one is more—personal. And that’s why I want you to have it.” He said.
“Thank you Dad. This is…I don’t know what to say. Thank you!” The jewelry dazzled under the spot lights in her bedroom.
“And you might ask me why it is so roughly packaged.” He said.
“Yes. But I guess it’s because it is very old.” She said.
Otunba shook his head.
“No. I did the packaging myself. The box it came with is still as new as it was in 1991.” He smiled.
Torera looked a little lost.
“I just wanted you to know that good things may not always come in the best packages. They say you should not judge a book by its cover. If you do not open you might never get the diamonds hidden within.” Otunba said and stood up, patting her on the head.
“What are you talking about?”
“A young man was here to see me. He seems like a fine man. I understand he is a widower. Like I was.” He said.
Torera sighed. She did not know what to say. Fola had been to her father’s house? Why?!
She opened the door of her apartment and there were petals of roses on the floor. It did look romantic but she hated people littering her space. There were scented candles and the lights were off. It was day so some of the sun light gave the room some natural illumination. Ed Sheeran’s We found love right where we are was playing in the background from her speakers. She smiled. What was going on? Only Enitan had the key to her apartment.
“Hey, sweetheart.” She heard Fola’s voice. He was smiling and holding a bunch of roses in his hand. He held it out to her. She laughed. Enitan had definitely given him her keys or helped him out with this.
She smiled too.
“I missed you.” He said.
“Me too.” She admitted.
“Um—I have only done this once in my life. So, forgive me if it’s shabby.” He went down on a knee and brought out a velvet box. He opened it and in it was a beautiful emerald cut ring. Torera had pictured this moment for a long time in her life but somehow, something was not adding up. She was afraid. She was scared.
“Torera Tafa. Please, will you be the mother of my kids?”
She looked at him. Those words were more metaphoric than literal. He was asking her to become a mother to two kids before she gave birth to hers. He wanted a mother for his children.
She covered her face with her hands and slowly but regrettably, she shook her head.
“I’m sorry, Fola. But this is not what I want. I don’t want to just fill a void in your life. I am so sorry. I love you too but I don’t know if you love me as Torera or you love me as Onome’s replacement. I think you need to figure that out.”
Fola sighed. He was embarrassed. He did not know what to say.
“Sweets I love you for you. I admit yes I liked you because my kids love you. But now, I can’t live without you no matter how cliché that sounds. I need you. I want you so much. I want to marry you baby.” He said.
Torera shook her head.
“I’m sorry. Please. Give me some time to think this through. Give me till the end of the month. Please. I want to be sure. I can’t survive another mistake. I need to pray.” She said, looking at him. She was sorry that he was embarrassed. Thank God there was no one else there.
“You know, I always blamed God for taking Onome away. I blamed him for the faith that she had. I blamed him for letting her die. But overtime I have come to thank Him. He gave me the best times with her and like Bami says, God knows best. Now I’m wiser but I’m also thankful for the life she lived. She gave me two adorable babies. God brought you my way and you are the most amazing woman I have ever met. I love you for completely different reasons. You are not Onome. You are different from Onome. You have your flaws and she had her flaws. And I love you for who you are, Torera.” He said.
She hugged him and stayed in his embrace for a little while.
“I just farted.” She laughed. “Had too much malt at dad’s house.”
“On second thought, maybe I should withdraw this proposal.” He laughed.
It was October 31st. It was the last day of the month. Fola was unable to catch any sleep. This was the day Torera was supposed to give a response to his proposal. He was jittery, yet calm. He looked at the time. It was 8.15 am. He got his kids ready for the day and dropped them over at his sister’s place then he paid a visit to Bami at work. It was his two weeks break and he had quite a few other investments and partnerships he needed to monitor.
He looked at the time again and it was three in the afternoon. He had still not heard anything from Torera. He was tempted to call her. And he did. But he didn’t talk about the proposal. He only asked if she was okay and she said she was fine. By six p.m he called Enitan. Enitan told him to take a breather.
By Ten p.m, he gave up. Torera was not interested. He was hurt but he would handle it like a man. He loved her friendship and he would hold on to that.
By Eleven Forty Five p.m, his phone rang. He jumped at it like it was a matter of life and death.
“Hello,” Fola panted. He tried to be calm. The kids were asleep.
It was Torera. A huge smile broke out immediately on his handsome face.
“I am at your door.” She said.
He hurried to the front door, hitting his foot a few times on the kids’ toys scattered on the floor.
He opened the security door and caught his breath.
“Hi.” He said, panting.
“Hey husband.” She said with a smile on her pretty face.
She was at peace.
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